ram·ble (verb): A walk for pleasure, typically without a definite route; To talk or write at length in a confused or inconsequential way

My scholarly publishing history: the successes, the failures and the backstories

August 21, 2018

What follows is an annotated bibliography of my publishing history where I aim to provide an honest account of every peer-reviewed manuscript I’ve written, including the ones that didn’t get published, the ones that took years and endless rounds of reviews to get published, and the ones that probably shouldn’t have been published at all. I’ve written this partly for people starting out, for whom the path to publication is often a demoralizing one and where it’s easy to assume that people who are more advanced in their careers have had to struggle less – in that respect, it’s partly inspired by Johannes Haushofer’s CV of failures.

The rise of content

March 28, 2017

Within the field of publishing today, one word crops up repeatedly: ‘content’. Content, we are told, is what publishers do. They solicit it, edit it, package it and distribute it. Although the term has become so pervasive that most people don’t give it a second thought, the framing of publishing as a form of content production is a recent shift – one that’s largely a twenty-first century phenomenon. For this reason, it’s worth reflecting on how and why this concept became ascendant. This is my goal in what follows, where I seek to both denaturalize the term and interrogate its effects.

Changing conceptions of the reader

February 12, 2017

The Reader has been imagined in many ways over the centuries by the varied players with a stake in understanding her – publishers, literary and cultural theorists, national policy makers, and so on. However, one discipline has increasingly come to dominate conceptions of the Reader, at least within the arena of trade publishing: marketing.

Why Academia.edu is not the answer that proponents of open access have been looking for and why many academics don’t care (but should)

October 17, 2016

Scholarly journals are of the few areas in the publishing sector where substantial profits are made.  Ironically, publications that are some of the least expensive to produce are the most expensive to purchase – mostly because of the pool of free labour academics provide in writing content and ensuring its quality, and the existence of a captive market (i.e., universities) forced to purchase products at whatever price publishers choose to charge.  This situation has led the science reporter George Monbiot to quip that academic publishers make ‘WalMart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch look like a socialist’.

Responding to academic spam: III

June 10, 2016

Somewhat disturbingly, Insight Conferences has actually responded to Elsa's email (although, oddly enough, not Ariel’s), asking her to submit an abstract.  So the question now is whether I can write something outlandish enough that they would not proceed with registration.  Mission accepted, Loraine Vagina. 

Responding to academic spam: II

June 09, 2016

I have decided that one email response is not enough to fully express my appreciation for the dodgiest 'academic' invitation I have ever received.  In the spirit of spammers everywhere, it behooves me to at least attempt to clog up their inbox. I have therefore created a second email account and sent a second message to geologists@insightconferences.com. 

Reponding to academic spam: I

June 09, 2016

On a daily basis, I receive literally dozens of emails from 'academic' publishers and conferences inviting me to submit a paper or speak at their event.  For the most part, these invitations are laughably dodgy - to the extent that I have previously felt compelled to provide some advice on how they might attempt to look more credible.  However, I do believe that the email I received this morning from Insight Conferences might win the prize for the dodgiest invitation ever.  I have therefore decided that such heights of glorious dodginess should be rewarded with a response.  Here is the invitation I received and my response, which I sent after setting up a Google account specifically for the purpose of responding to such emails.

Second Republican candidate responds to claims about imminent bird apocalypse

April 12, 2016

My opponent wants you to believe that no one else cares about the coming bird apocalypse.  But the truth of the matter is that the bird apocalypse has already happened and I’ve been talking about it for years. As a Canadian-born lifelong defender of the American Constitution, I can definitively say that the bird apocalypse began in 1973.  This was the year that the Supreme Court stepped in and took life out of the control of the ordinary people and put it exclusively in the hands of birds.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that birds are shitting on us—as a Christian, I don’t go in for that kind of language.  But it’s true that birds have already fouled the nest.  Actually, for these birds—the ones with their liberal ‘New York’ values—there is no nest, because they’ve aborted all their eggs. Not a lotta pro-life birds come outta Manhattan is what I’m saying.

Candidate talks about new threat to America

April 08, 2016

I wanna talk to you about what’s happening to our country.  Our country is in serious trouble.  I’m not prejudiced.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m not prejudiced, but let’s be honest here: they are ruining America.  Every year they come here.  They’re mostly not from here but they come here in waves and they shit all over us.  I mean, they literally shit all over us. Plus, they’re horrible, they’re disgusting.  Some of them, I assume, are decent, but most of them carry diseases.  Ever heard of avian flu?  Look, normally I would talk about China, how China is killing us (and they are!).  But today I want to talk about our very survival and the coming bird apocalypse.

Letter to Academia.edu

December 09, 2015

Dear Academia.edu,


When I discovered you a couple of years ago, I was immediately enamoured.  Here was a website dedicated to the principles of open access that would enable me to share my research with members of the public.  Here was a site that allowed me to control my profile and add and delete material at will—unlike my own academic institution, where adding a paper or updating my profile is a task so unwieldy and complicated, I rarely bother.  Here was a site that would expose me to the work of academics I might otherwise never have heard of.  Plus, it looked like the younger, hipper sibling of ResearchGate, which, as far as I could ascertain, was populated primarily by nerdy scientists. Recently, though, the glow has begun to wear off.

Letter to Knowledge Translation Media

April 30, 2015

Dear Knowledge Translation Media,


I was very excited to receive your email invitation this morning and I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been trying unsuccessfully to reach me by phone.  It’s so flattering to know that I am one of only a “small selected number of researchers and institutes around the globe” you’ve approached with your exciting offer to translate my research. Given how enamored grant agencies are with the concept of knowledge translation, it was only a matter of time before some enterprising soul stepped up to the plate to give us what we’ve all been waiting for: a media organization dedicated to knowledge translation. 

What I actually said about Apple product launches

October 09, 2014

In October 2012, a reporter got in touch asking if I would be willing to provide some comments for an article she was writing on Apple product launches to precede the unveiling of the iPad Mini. I had been recommended to her, she indicated, based on a satiric piece I’d written for the AAA Blog on how to deliver papers at anthropology conferences.  She was looking for an anthropologist willing to provide some “light hearted and fun” comments on the “culture of Apple product launch events”. Let me make it clear that I know nothing about Apple launches.  I don’t study corporations or computers, or anything that even remotely relates to this topic.  Hell, I don’t even own an iPad.

Letter to dodgy open access journals

September 12, 2014

Dear dodgy open access journals,


Every morning I open up my email with a sense of anticipation.  Who will I receive an invitation from today? Will it be Obesity Research, which is a topic at least tangentially related to stuff I have actually published on, or the International Journal of Marine Science and Ocean Technology, which has clearly not bothered to do its homework.  However, I can’t help feel, dodgy open access journals, that you’ve stopped even pretending to look legitimate.

Letter to Ann Coulter

August 07, 2014

Dear Ann,


You and I don’t see eye to eye on many things (well, most things; probably 99% of things), but I want to take the opportunity to thank you for opening my eyes to the true nature of soccer.  Now I should confess up front that I’m not an American (or even an ‘American’), so I know my opinion doesn’t count, but your recent columns spoke to me on a gut level.  Actually, even lower – more like the bowel region. I mean, what kind of ‘sport’ (a term I clearly use loosely) forces its viewers to watch 45 minutes of straight play (sometimes 50!) without a single ad break?  How do we go to the washroom?  How do we get snacks from the fridge?

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